How Bizarre, How Bizarre!

View From the Press Box

Joe Kauffman
Technical Editor

July 13, 1997

TAMPA, Fla. - Only a few weeks ago, everyone was wondering what exactly was going on in Tampa Bay. After winning two games in a row, it seems that the Tampa Bay Storm (6-5) are turning things around.

But people are still wondering what is going on.

Don't let the score fool you. Although it seems typical of a normal Arena Football game, The Storm's 68-43 win over the Anaheim Piranhas (2-9) was the most bizarre sporting event that I have ever attended. Since it was so unusual, I'll just go through everything in order.

  1. The Storm score a safety only 1:53 into the game when Piranhas QB John Kaleo fumbled the ball on third down and OL/DL Chuck Reed recovered it in the endzone. He stepped out of bounds, giving the Storm their first ever 2-0 lead. How bizarre!

  2. After a Tracey Perkins interception gave the Storm the ball on their own five-yard-line, Storm QB Peter Tom Willis was sacked in the endzone by Anaheim OL/DL Sam Hernandez for a safety. This gave the Piranhas their first score of the game as they pulled within seven points, a 9-2 defecit. I believe that this is the first time in AFL history that both teams first scores in a game were safeties. How bizarre!

  3. When Tampa Bay gets the ball with 6:08 remaining in the first half and the ball on their own 15-yard-line, Storm WR/DB Wayne Walker, who joined the team last week, ran a deep pattern down the right sideline. Willis' pass was underthrown by six yards, but somehow, Walker was able to turn around and come back to the ball at the eight-yard-line. In the process, the Piranhas defensive back fell down. After Walker caught the ball, he ran to the center of the field, trying to get into the endzone. But Walker fell down (possibly tripping on a seam in the carpet), rolled back on to his feet and was tackled by the same defender one yard short of the endzone. It was the funniest pass play I have ever seen. How bizarre!

  4. The Storm received the ball with 0:18 remaining in the second quarter. Stevie Thomas went onto the field and then went back to the sideline. He was called for an illegal substitution. This may have been the best thing to happen to the Storm all game. When Walker subbed for Stevie Thomas, the Storm lost the lead. Go figure, Walker had never played defense. The penalty forced Thomas to come back into the game. On fourth down with six seconds left, Thomas streaked down the right sideline, like Walker had done earlier. This time, the Willis pass was on the money and Thomas made the grab for a TD. In any other game this season, he probably would have dropped the pass. Tonight, he looked like the old Stevie Thomas. This year, how bizarre!

  5. After giving up a 57-yard kickoff return to the Piranhas late in the second half to Rodney Mazion, the league's premier kick-returner, the Storm needed to tighten up on return coverage. They certainly did. On four consecutive kickoffs during the third and fourth quarters, Storm kicker Rich Fall put every kickoff between the two nets. Three were above the cross bar and the fourth went just below it, never giving Mazion a chance to return a kick. In a game where good returns are the norm, the Storm managed to prevent the Piranhas from returning the ball. How bizarre!

  6. As an indirect result of the four consecutive non-returns, the Storm outscored the Piranhas 20-7 during that stretch.

    • When Anaheim kicker Ian Howfield attempted a 53-yard fieldgoal, only two things happened. First, the long-snapper sent the ball to the holder, who placed it on the kicking block. Then, Storm OL/DL Willie Wyatt ran through the line untouched and scooped up the ball. He was tackled at the two-yard-line. The holder never saw him coming, and the kicker never began his kicking motion. Needless to say, the Storm scored three plays later. That's 6-0. How bizarre!

    • On the next Anaheim drive, Piranhas FB/LB Tim Brown lost control of the ball on a sweep to the right, which the Storm recovered on the eight-yard-line. The Storm scored on the next play, an eight-yard run by Andre Bowden. That's 13-0. How Bizarre!

    • On the next Anaheim drive, Storm DS Tracey Perkins intercepted a Kaleo pass on second down, returning it to the one-yard-line. It was his second for the game and ninth on the year. Bowden scored again on the next play. That's 20-0. How bizarre!

    • The fourth try actually worked for the Piranhas, who went 45 yards in seven plays and managed to score a touchdown. That makes the score 20-7 as a result of the four consecutive touchbacks. This was the only time they scored during the fourth quarter. How bizarre!

  7. The Storm's worst quarter this season has been the third. Going into the game, they have been outscored 71-48 in the period. Tonight, in rare fashion, the Storm out-scored Anaheim 19-7, bringing the third-quarter scoring margin from minus-23 to minus-11. How bizarre!

  8. Another thing the Storm improved on was turnovers. Going into the game, they were minus-nine. After stealing three interceptions and two fumbles, while only giving away one of each, the Storm actually improved the turnover ratio to minus-six. The Storm out-scored the Piranhas 20-10. How bizarre!

  9. With just over one minute remaining in the game, the Storm line up to attempt a field goal---but it's a fake. Fall kicks it very short deliberately, hoping that OS George LaFrance can get to the ball before any Anaheim receivers do. The Storm tried this in practice on Wednesday. It doesn't work. It's a good thing they tried it while a game was not on the line. The Piranhas don't see this as fortunate though---they see the Storm trying to run up the score. As a result of their frustration a fight breaks out. Storm OL/DL Terry Beauford and Piranhas WR/DB Mazion are ejected. How bizarre!

  10. The referees. Three-yard penalties being marched off as two-and-a-half. Some they forget to march off. Inconsistent calls. Anyone who has been to an AFL game this season knows how unusually sloppy the refs have been. How bizarre!

  11. I can't remember the last time the Storm scored five TDs on the ground. Four of them were run in by Bowden, who tied a team record for rushing TDs and set a career best in the same category. With Thomas and Bowden looking like their old excellent selves, maybe the Storm is back. How bazarre!

  12. 68 points was one shy of a team record. In fact, it's the first time the Storm broke the fifty point mark all season. The last time they scored over fifty was against Arizona in a 55-54 playoff win last year and the first time over 60 since last year's regular seaon 69-48 win, also against the Rattlers. The Storm had gone 12 games without breaking the half-century mark, a rarity in the AFL. In fact, this boosted the points-per-game up by 3.1 points to 36.7. How bizarre!

After reading through this long list of unusual events that occured during the game, you can see how uncharacteristic this game was for the Storm and the AFL in general. I have been to plenty of games during the Storm's seven years of existance. Before tonight, I thought I could say that I had seen all of the strangeness that makes Arena Football what it is. I was wrong, but after the Storm's unusually entertaining win over the Piranhas, I think that I can truly say that I have seen it all.

That's my view from the press box.

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